Institutions often set calendar benchmarks for reflection and evaluation. Workers and/or programs are reviewed annually or semi-annually ostensibly to improve performance or productivity. While setting arbitrary anniversaries for such reflections may be more efficient, I wonder if they would be more effective if we measured the time for such experiences based on changes in feelings about the work or an observable indicator from regular monitoring. Such is the case, for me, to review my purpose and performance of these blog posts.
Our first post was on May 21, 2019. Now, 66 posts and some 30+ months later, I’m feeling a need to check in with myself as I recognize that what was once stimulating has become more of a responsibility. I am aware that what works at one point in time may not in another. And while some might say, “ If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” I don’t want to wait until it’s broken before I make the necessary adjustments to keep it healthy. Factor in my recent move and challenging transition to relocating and it feels like the right time to take stock of where I am with my writing, where I want to go, and how to reclaim the energy and vitality I initially had. Of course I am only one third of what makes this all work. I also owe it to my two very patient and supportive blog-mates to check in with myself.
For the last ten years or so I’ve felt a need to pass along my thoughts, feelings, and what I understand to be wisdom to my children. Sparked by a lively conversation sometime in August of 2018 with Wal and George in a bar we once frequented many years before, the idea of sharing written thoughts and opinions about chosen topics was kindled. And so we began this journey, fueled by anticipation of the unknown, a powerful reconnection with former classmates, and the excitement of creating something new from our shared experiences. As I looked back at our early notes, emails, and outlines I found some possible causes for the change in how I bring myself to my writing.
I read less than I did when we began. In the early days there was a flurry of articles shared among us as well as references to books and authors that we discussed and debated. Today I rarely contribute to this process. There are some apparent and some not so obvious reasons for this. However, this is something I can certainly do more of in the coming months.
For a while, I was journaling on an irregular basis but often enough to keep my writing and ideas and experiences fresh and connected. This all but stopped as I began the process of selling my house. Now that I have begun to establish new routines, I have the option of scheduling regular journal entries. I imagine this would not only contribute to my writing but will serve to help me adapt to my current life style.
Being outdoors and getting abundant exercise and fresh air has always been a major source of energy for me. Since my move, this has changed dramatically. Finding ways to do both on a regular basis will take far more effort than in my former setting but I know the benefit will far outweigh the effort.
I am also aware that, for me, new beginnings are easier than sustaining middle ground in any of the projects I’ve undertaken. The struggle has been how to sustain the energy, momentum, and excitement of the work over time. Going back to our beginnings has helped me rediscover my original purpose as well as to recognize the important behaviors that helped propel my work. And while I can and will recommit to some of them starting now, I wonder if there is something else that needs to shift as we close in on three years of posting our blogs. Perhaps so, but for now, I look forward to putting first, the things that helped me in the past. Then, after a short period, I’ll look back to today to see what, if any progress has been made and what I can do differently, moving forward.
Hen’s piece asks us to reflect on writing this blog after 66 posts. Have we strayed from our original goal and have we maintained the same level of enthusiasm?
I guess the answer for me is yes to both questions.
Sure, anything done repetitively can wear thin over time, but I’ve felt that this blog is an evolving enterprise. My original goal was to share advice with my grandkids in mind. After writing a few entries, it seemed to me that my advice is not so cogent – or sufficiently clear — as to spare them the same mistakes I’ve made over time. In addition, it is a slim probability that my skills as a writer will rise to a high level of sophistication. So now what?
Well, there are several aspects of this ongoing conversation which I continue to enjoy:
- It is an opportunity to sharpen ideas. One of us writes on a subject and the others weigh in with some counterpoint. How else does a person grow in one’s perspective? It’s pure dialectic. Of course, it would also be constructive if readers at large commented with their views as well.
- The above only works if folks with different points of view can find common ground — and the respect to actually listen – genuinely participate: that’s what friends do. We started with the premise that each of we three old guys had a distinctly different style and set of life experiences. I believe that we realized pretty quickly that we were more alike than different. In a season characterized by identity politics and differentiation, we are harmoniously diverse. I find the opportunity for relationship building is more satisfying than mining and exploiting differences.
- We laugh a lot. We old guys zoom every week to explore ideas and check in on one another. It’s an easy and spontaneous conversation. We start with a plan and invariably devolve into good natured banter. God only knows where our conversation will lead at any given time.
It’s pretty clear that my goals have changed over time. I think that honing ideas will help me express something of significance to my wonderful grandkids… but I’m not in a hurry, because even as I age, my points of view also marinate. Point of view is, after all, a time-slice of opinion.
There are times when I have no clue as to what to write. Yet, words still find their way to the page, mainly guided by references to writers with greater insight and intellect. The motivation to research and synthesize information from these folks fuels my enthusiasm to connect to this blog.
So, yep – I strayed from our original goal, but remain pretty satisfied with where our conversations have taken us three old guys.
I journaled my whole life. Mostly recording places I visited or events that occurred. Early on I used calendar books just to jot down a daily reminder of what occurred. Recently I gave a collection of those books to my daughter so she could read what we were going through in the process of adopting her 50 years ago and how we fell in love with her the moment we were first introduced to her at the Ulster County Office Building, more affectionately known, in the early 70’s, as the Glass Menagerie. Health issues arose and the release papers were withdrawn and we went through an agonizing period for about 7 months when we weren’t sure if she would be released. I wanted her to know how much she was wanted!
Then I moved on to composition books. I loved the way a page looked when I was finished, always writing carefully and always using a favorite fountain pen to do the writing. I just always loved to write! So, when we three old fraternity brothers met at our 50th reunion and the idea was presented I loved it. We had a combined life experience of over 220 years’ worth of life experience. Not having any grandchildren my audience is different than Henry’s and Wally’s. I had gone through some traumatic medical procedures and wanted to share that with folks our age so they wouldn’t have to go into these situations without some encouragement and advice from someone who experienced this kind of stuff. So many scary, new experiences face seniors and it is helpful to maybe hear how someone else made it through!
We certainly each have our own writing styles. Henry and Wally write much more scholarly than I do, quoting experts in many different fields whose books they have read. I read mostly fiction, and quoting Forrest Gump or Holden Caulfield doesn’t carry the same weight as a person with half the alphabet following their names, so my pieces are based only on my own feelings and experiences.
These other 2 old guys helped me survive Covid. They gave me a purpose and the knowledge that every week I’ll get to have human contact either in person or video-ickly just to validate there are still other humans around. Our discussions range from all kinds of things and are always encouraging and thought provoking! Our process has evolved over the course of our 66 publications, and that’s a good thing! Things have to evolve because our thinking evolves and that is good also. Let us know what you think! Share with us your thoughts, disagree with us, yell at us. That’s how we develop and improve. But keep reading us!